As more telehealth providers offer weight-loss programs, they should be aware of the potential impact of state laws and regulations. In this blog post, we take a closer look at Florida’s consumer protection laws regarding weight-loss programs.
While many providers are familiar with Florida’s Standards for the Prescription of Obesity Drugs (Fla. Admin. Code 64B8-9.012, see Final with ID: 26115424), providers may not be as familiar with the Florida Commercial Weight-Loss Practices Act. The Commercial Weight-Loss Practices Act, enacted in 2000 (Fla. Stat. 501.057 – Fla. Stat. 501.0581) broadly applies to weight-loss providers, which includes any person engaged in the business of offering services to consumers to assist them in losing weight and making oral or written statements, visual descriptions, advertisements or other representations that have the capacity, tendency or effect of leading consumers to believe that participation in a weight-loss program will result in weight loss. See Fla. Stat. 501.0571(5). Additionally, weight-loss providers are required to:
- Provide to a consumer a written, itemized statement of the fixed or estimated cost of the weight-loss program that is being recommended, including all additional products, services, supplements, examinations or laboratory tests the consumer may be required to purchase from the weight-loss provider as part of such program
- Disclose the actual or estimated duration of the recommended weight-loss program
- Provide, upon request, a copy of the educational and professional experience of the weight-loss provider’s staff
- Provide the name, address and qualifications of the person who has reviewed and approved the weight-loss program, according to section 468.505(1)(j)
- Produce and distribute to all consumers who inquire about their weight-loss program a palm-sized card with the Weight-Loss Consumer Bill of Rights printed on it
- Post conspicuously the Weight-Loss Consumer Bill of Rights at the front registration desk in each weight-loss program location and require every agent, representative, franchisee or independent contractor to post such a bill of rights in a prominent place in every room in which a presentation or sale of a weight-loss program is made or in which a product or treatment is offered for sale
See Fla. Stat. 501.0573.
Notably, the Weight-Loss Consumer Bill of Rights is a required, separate consumer-facing document that requires disclosure that “rapid weight loss may cause serious health problems,” among other safety disclosures and protections intended for disclosure before beginning a weight-loss program.
Florida’s Commercial Weight-Loss Practices Act is a reminder that telehealth providers should look beyond the telehealth and prescribing regulations in each state. For telehealth providers operating in a number of states, an in-depth review of all of the relevant state laws and regulations is critical to capture the framework of applicable laws and regulations across the spectrum of health and consumer protection. For providers without in-person practice locations, there are often other strategies that meet the relevant requirements and can ensure compliance with these laws.
Telehealth is an important development in care delivery, but the regulatory patchwork is complicated. The McDermott digital health team works alongside the industry’s leading providers, payors and technology innovators to help them enter new markets, break down barriers to delivering accessible care and mitigate enforcement risk through proactive compliance. Are you working to make healthcare more accessible through telehealth? Let us help you transform telehealth.